Samantha Witherington – a survivor of domestic abuse, who has dedicated hundreds of hours to speak to others about abuse – is this year’s winner of the John Jay Shield, thanks to her “unstinting commitment” to her community.
Paul Bompas, a former Superintendent of Dorset Police and founder of the award, presented Samantha with the shield at an awards ceremony hosted by the Safer Poole Partnership at the Salterns Harbourside Hotel on Thursday 8 December.
Samantha started speaking out publicly as a survivor of domestic violence in 2014 on behalf of Dorset Rape Crisis support centre and the local authority. She was in an abusive relationship for three years and then endured the reporting process with the Police; helping to secure her ex-partner's 10 year prison sentence.
Sam’s traumatic experiences are something that Sam speaks openly and in great detail about in front of various audiences, in the hope to empower victims to speak out about abuse and seek help.
Sam has volunteered her time to; a university film for criminology students, consulting on an upcoming TV series, media interviews, a photoshoot, and short film for the 2015 sexual violence conference in Poole, media work for Dorset Police including local press and a survivors online web chat, live radio interviews and, most recently, the Football United event at AFC Bournemouth.
Sam’s most influential platform is within training. Sam tells her story in full detail every few months to practitioners on an awareness training course, influencing how midwives, social workers, and health visitors respond to victims. It allows frontline staff to learn how they can raise their own standards of practice, and ensure that all victims are dealt with free from the stigma that is often unfortunately attached to victims of abuse.
Councillor Mohan Iyengar officially opened the ceremony and said: “Over the years, Sam has dedicated an enormous amount of her own time to the people of Poole and I am delighted that we are able to recognise her achievements and bravery with the John Jay Shield. The efforts of Sam and all of our other nominees to prevent crime and protect the community should not be underestimated – they have made a real difference to people’s lives and continue to do so without seeking reward.”
Sam was selected from five shortlisted nominees by a panel of judges from Safer Poole and Dorset Police.
David Darling was awarded a runner-up certificate for his work as chair of the Canford Heath Neighbourhood Watch since December 2015. He also acts as treasurer for the Association of Residents of Canford Heath, and the publicity officer for the Association of Poole Watches.
Three certificates of recognition were awarded to the following:
Stand and Matter and the Samantha Henderson Trust – a group of Samantha’s friends who began working together in order to raise both awareness and funds for the crucial backing that Samantha’s four children will need. These ladies put their own grief to one side to start this amazing trust
Paul Owen - a licensed hackney carriage driver in Poole. Throughout the year, on any special occasion or event, he decorates his taxi inside and out to raise money for Gully’s Place Trust Fund at Poole Hospital
Police Community Support Officer Matthew Cast – PCSO for Canford Heath, always going above and beyond his daily policing role
Councillor Karen Rampton, Cabinet Portfolio Holder for Communities and Chair of the Safer Poole Partnership Board, Borough of Poole, said: “Sam’s achievements are extensive and she has earned the respect of the community and so many professionals. Her work has no doubt enable people to report abuse and provided them with a voice.
“Every year we get to hear about exceptional work carried out by local people and groups to make Poole safer and this year is no exception. All five shortlisted nominees deserved the award but sadly there can only be one overall winner.
“Poole is a better and safer place thanks to the hard work of these selfless individuals.”
The John Jay Shield is awarded every year by the Safer Poole Partnership to the individual or group judged to have contributed the most to making Poole safer over the previous year.